The 17-year-old daughter of missing Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) has appealed for help from US President Barack Obama, saying Beijing had kidnapped him and that police beat her as a child.
Grace Geng (耿格), who now lives in the US with her mother and brother, urged Obama to ask Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) for information about Gao’s whereabouts when the pair meet next month at a G20 summit in Seoul.
The plight of human rights activists in China has come under the spotlight since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded this month to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), with the West pressing for the release of all political prisoners.
“President Obama, as the father of two girls yourself, please ask President Hu to tell this daughter where her father is,” Geng wrote in an opinion piece published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. “I know my father is just one man, but I also know that if the Chinese government is allowed to blatantly violate its own law with respect to my father, it is only a matter of time before the next father disappears.”
Gao — who has defended some of China’s most vulnerable people — disappeared in February last year, sparking global concern.
He only reappeared in March this year when he was apparently released by police, speaking with a few friends and colleagues, many of whom reported that he continued to be tailed by authorities and was in ill-health.
“He wasn’t allowed to talk about what happened to him or where he was during that terrifying year, but I was able to tell my father that I love him over the phone,” Geng said.
A month later, Gao disappeared again and has not been heard from since.
“Six months ago last week, the Chinese government kidnapped my father, Gao Zhisheng,” Geng wrote. “My father is a lawyer, an increasingly dangerous profession in China.”
Geng said police beat her and her mother when Gao’s troubles began about five years ago, when he renounced his Chinese Communist Party membership and openly called for an end to a crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners.
In December 2006, he was convicted of subversion and given a suspended sentence of three years in prison, immediately placed under house arrest and put on probation for five years.
Geng said her father was tortured during his time in detention.
“I knew that when my father came home to serve his suspended sentence, his skin had turned black. I knew that my father couldn’t get out of bed in the morning without my mother’s help and I knew that my father was scared,” she said.
The teen said police beat her when she was 12 and authorities prevented her from attending school when she was 15, helping to push her mother toward seeking political asylum in the US. They fled China early last year.
In her letter, Geng said she was braced for the worst news.
“If the Chinese government has murdered my father, I beg President Obama to ask President Hu to let us bury him,” she wrote. “I’m old enough to understand that it might be better for my father to be dead than for him to undergo more unspeakable torture, but for my brother, Peter, who is only seven, not knowing whether our father is alive or dead is an unfathomable cruelty.”
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